DALLAS - Three years after a Seattle woman's death, the first of three murder trials for suspects in her death got underway on Tuesday.
Marisela Botello was killed after leaving a bar in Dallas' popular Deep Ellum neighborhood in Oct. 2020. Surveillance video showed Charles Beltran and the 23-year-old leaving together, but it was unclear what happened to Botello.
Six months later, Botello's remains were found in a remote area of Dallas County.
Three roommates were charged with murder: Beltran, Nina Marano and her wife Lisa Dykes, after police say Botello's blood was found in their home.
Dykes' trial began on Tuesday.
In opening statements, prosecutors said Beltran, Marano, and Dykes were all three romantically involved.
Prosecutor Robin Pittman said Dykes killed Botello inside their Mesquite home because she was jealous that she had slept with Beltran.
"You’ll hear how Lisa Dykes in the early morning hours of Oct. 5 entered that room, Charles Beltran’s bedroom, got on top of Botello Valdez and stabbed her," Pittman said.
Prosecutors said Beltran claimed he and Botello were asleep when Dykes came in and stabbed Botello to death.
Beltran told Dykes to "take care of this."
"Her body was dumped unceremoniously on this country rod in Wilmer, Texas and wasn't found until months later," prosecutors said.
An arrest affidavit said blood found under the carpet inside Dykes’ home matched Botello’s.
But defense attorney Heath Harris said Dykes will testify she never met Botello, and that Beltran was living with her and Marano because she was investing in his aspiring rap career.
"Charles Beltran cannot be trusted and there is not evidence to corroborate what he says," Harris said.
Victim's friends and family testify
Botello’s mother and aunt testified about being worried when Botello missed her flight back home to Seattle on Oct. 5.
"The main thing is there’s absolutely no communication," Dennesly Castillo, Botello’s aunt said.
Botello was in Dallas visiting Raul Ortiz. The two met when he lived in Seattle and were intimate at one point.
Ortiz testified that they were out earlier on the night of Oct. 4, but he got drunk and the two went back to his Dallas apartment. That’s the last time he saw her.
"The reason we split up is because I had vomit on my shirt because I was drunk. And we went to my apartment, and I didn’t have the keys to get in," he said. "She got an Uber, went to Deep Ellum and I literally slept out on my balcony."
Ortiz said the next morning when she didn’t return to his apartment, he tried calling and texting her. But she never responded. He called Dallas police to report her missing.
"I figured something bad had happened," he said.
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Suspect's co-worker testifies
One of Dykes' former co-workers at a law firm testified that she married Marano, an attorney, for financial stability.
"It was more of an opportunity," Rosa Maria Martinez said.
"What do you mean by an opportunity?" the attorney asked.
"Because of finances," Martinez said.
"Nina was well off?" the attorney asked.
"Yes," Martinez replied.
She testified that Dykes was possessive of Beltran. She said Dykes bought him a car, financed his rap music projects, and more.
Dykes once became furious when she found out Marano slept with Beltran without her, Martinez said.
"She was livid," she said. "She was going to make Nina her b****."
Botello's remains were found months after her disappearance. Dykes' defense team argued there's a lack of physical evidence, including how and when she was killed.
"You can't tell members of the jury that can you?" Harris said.
"No, I cannot," said Garrick Whaley, a criminal investigator with the Dallas County District Attorney's Office.
Dr. Elizabeth Ventura with the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences also testified that she couldn't determine when Botello died based on her autopsy.
Arrest in Cambodia
When Dykes was out on bond, she and Marano cut their ankle monitors on Christmas morning in 2021.
Two months later, the FBI assisted law enforcement in Cambodia, 9,000 miles away, with taking the couple into custody.
During opening statements, Harris told jurors she did that because she didn’t think she could get a fair trial.
The prosecution continues presenting its case on Wednesday.
Marano's murder trial is scheduled for February. Beltran's is scheduled for April.